[Insert Chili Pun Here]

Normally I wouldn't expose a recipe for chili outside my own kitchen except on special occasions. It's just too classic; people just take their chili cookin' and eatin' too seriously for me to be messing around. But I happened to put together a vegetarian chili (with definite help and inspiration from a certain young lady) prior to some NFL games last weekend that was truly worthy, in my opinion, of some promulgation.

The first thing I think is necessary for a chili is sautéing the base flavor ingredients with the spices. So I diced half an onion, chopped up one sweet and one spicy fresh banana peppers, and smashed a couple cloves of garlic. In a large stainless steel pan (the largest pan, not pot, I could find) I began sautéing the garlic in some extra virgin olive oil on medium heat. Once the juices started being emitted from the garlic I added the peppers and onions and some pepper and touch of salt.

After letting those soften and absorb flavors for five or so minutes, I added almost all the spices I would use for the chili. I figured that the base ingredients need them the most and will spread the flavors throughout without overwhelming the entire base of the chili. So I added a few generous shakes of the following: chili powder, paprika, chipotle powder, celery seed, sage, rosemary and cumin. The cumin is the most important. Then add another swig of EVOO and stir the spices in very well. Let them all cook together for another three minutes at least.

While the spices are infusing themselves into your base vegetables, open, drain and rinse one can of black beans and one can of white beans. I really like the look of black and white chili and like the flavors and textures of those beans, especially together. After the vegetables have been fully cooked with the spices, deglaze the pan with about 2-3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Scrape the bottom of the pan and let all of the caramelization from the bottom mix in with the rest of the veggies.

Once deglazed, add the beans and again, stir in completely and let cook together for another minute or two.

Next add a 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. Again, be sure to fully incorporate the tomato into the beans and veggies so the spices and flavors are fully dispersed. Now I want you to add a few special ingredients that will make this chili awesome. First, 1-2 tablespoons of spicy Dijon mustard – this will really bring out flavors in your chili without actually making it taste “mustardy.” Let cook on medium for about five minutes now.

Now add half a cup of fizzy seltzer. This will actually add body to your chili while diluting the spice a little. I really do not care for chili that has an overwhelmingly spicy sauce because then you can barely taste the components. I like really spicy components with a nicely flavored sauce. The seltzer helps achieve this.

Finally, add about a quarter cup of whole wheat flour and mix very well. Let cook for just another couple minutes until the chili is thick but not clumpy and the beans are soft and just a little bit fluffy. Serve with anything you would want with chili: homemade baked corn tortillas, Greek yogurt or sour cream, shredded cheese. It had such a good taste with a nice fire but not overwhelming. Obviously, the key is to start with a moderate amount of spice and add more spice or less seltzer later on if you want to go hotter. You have to taste as you go with chili, especially for salt and fire levels.

I think if you followed this recipe closely you would probably get something you liked, as the recipe seemed pretty robust to different tweaks. It also makes quite a bit – enough for us to both enjoy large portions that day and for lunch the next day. We thoroughly enjoyed our creation and will likely be making it again (and maybe even tweaking it more) on many future game days.

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